Although all animals used for the agricultural industry suffer atrocities, the worst case scenarios are seen on corporate owned industrial farms. These farms use unethical practices that maximize profits at the expense of the environment, animal welfare, and human health. Far from the happy farm animals grazing on green pastures that are shown in advertisements for meat, milk, and eggs, industrialized farms consist of large numbers of animals being raised in extreme confinement, unsanitary conditions and often mutilated. They are bred to grow unnaturally fast and larger for the purpose of maximizing production for the food industry. Animals on industrialized farms are regarded as commodities to be exploited for profit.
Facts the Industry Does Not want You to Know
Approximately 70 billion farm animals are reared for food in the world each year. Two out of every three of these animals are reared on an industrialized farm. According to the Vancouver Humane Society, “more than 800 million intensively-farmed animals were slaughtered in Canada in 2017.”
Cattle that are raised for the beef industry live their short lives chained in small stalls where they cannot lie down, or turn around. Eventually, they are brutally mutilated and slaughtered. Many are dismembered, while still fully conscious.
Most dairy cows are permanently confined to a stall, artificially impregnated or—to be more precise—“raped,” over and over again during their short lives. Their bodies are plagued by painful infections, calcium-depletion and lameness. In less than two days after a calf is born, they are removed from their mother’s teats, so the milk can be processed for human consumption, and the calves turned into veal.
Chickens and turkeys live and die in nightmarish conditions to supply consumers with their meat and eggs. They are kept in battery cages, which are so small their beaks need to be sawed off to prevent them from hurting one another. Their feet also bleed from the wires on the bottom of the cages. From the time they are born, up until the time they are slaughtered, these animals never see the light of day.
Uncaged, or free-range turkeys and chickens fare no better. They are crowded into dark and dirty warehouses where they still have their beak tops amputated without anesthetic. They suffer ammonia burns and respiratory disease from the vast amounts of urine and feces in the environment. They are genetically bred to grow so large that their bodies cannot support their growth, which results in debilitating and painful conditions and deformities. On industrialized farms, sick turkeys and chickens are often neglected and left to be trampled to death, or die of dehydration. Instead of living long and happy lives, birds on factory farms live short and tortured lives, while being imprisoned in unsanitary conditions.
The Myth of Organic Farms
When it comes to how the animals are treated, organic farms are no better than industrialized farms. Thousands of animals are still crammed together in filthy pens, or sheds, and suffer through the same mutilations, such as debeaking, dehorning, and castration without painkillers, that occur on industrialized farms. How the animals are treated on organic farms is irrelevant, as long as the animals are given organic feed and are not drugged then the farm is considered “organic.” The only benefit of organic farming is to the consumer, because the products from these animals do not contain antibiotics, or hormones.
Human Health and the Environment
Industrialized farms are a direct threat to human health and the environment. In order to rapidly increase the animal’s body weight, as well as, for dairy cows to produce milk at an abnormal rate, they are fed and injected with growth hormones. Also, because these animals never breathe fresh air, absorb the sun’s nutrients, or dine on grass and and forage as nature intended, they are prone to severe health ailments. To prevent the inevitable spread of disease from stress, overcrowding and lack of vitamin D, animals are fed a steady diet of antibiotics.
Humans who consume dairy and meat from these animals can develop immunity to certain types of antibiotics. When they are ill and need the drugs to cure them, the antibiotics may have no effect on killing bacterial infections.
Although products from animals raised on organic farms may be somewhat safer than those from industrialized farms, they are still laden with artery-clogging saturated fat and cholesterol. The animals are executed in filthy slaughterhouses similar to those raised on industrializd farms, which subjects them to the same potential for bacterial contamination from unsanitary conditions.
The emissions, waste and infectious agents produced when thousands of animals are confined with little sunlight, mobility or ventilation have devastating impacts on human, animal and environmental well-being. Air and water contamination, soil degradation, nutrient runoff, elevated hormone and antibiotic levels in the environment and illnesses in surrounding communities are all documented impacts of industrialized farms.
The ethical and healthiest decision to make for the animals, humans and the environment is to avoid all meat, eggs, and dairy products. There are many delicious vegan alternatives found on grocery store shelves, such as veggie dogs, veggie burgers, tofu turkeys and faux cheeses, to name a few.
Watch the informative documentary “Earthlings” to learn more about industrial livestock production, and other forms of animal exploitation. View here: https://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/earthlings/
Joan is a professional writer, photographer, animal advocate, and environmentalist. She holds a Masters degree in English Literature from the University of Toronto, and a Masters of Environmental Studies from York University, in Toronto, where her thesis focused on Indigenous culture and the environment.
Joan was a photographer and journalist for Metroland Media Group, and has also written numerous animal-related blogs, articles and product reviews for various commercial clients and nonprofit animal organizations.
When Joan is not musing over words, she can be found on her 'urban farm' cuddling with her three cats and three rabbits.